Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Before I had kids, when I knew nothing at all about anything BUT  thought I knew a lot of things about everything, I believed the common myth that it was not possible to breastfeed while pregnant. This went along with the general American public’s opinions about weaning at the stroke of midnight on a baby’s first birthday or else risk being considered gross/weird/worse.

I was surprised to hear people say breastfeeding during pregnancy is unsafe for the mother and fetus. People worry that because nipple stimulation can cause contractions, breastfeeding while pregnant might lead to early labor.  A very detailed article by Hilary Dervin Flower explains that there are not medical studies that examine the relationship between nipple stimulation from breastfeeding, the release of oxytocin, and pre-term labor. Flower does say the evidence suggests breastfeeding is “quite compatible” with a healthy, full-term birth.

She goes into detail about the different states of the uterus as baby-holder and baby-birther, thinking the whole time about how breastfeeding might play into the equation. The article is a nice reminder that our bodies really seem to have thought of everything…and that women have been nursing while pregnant for centuries.

Not until I really began hanging out with other mothers who started expanding their families did I think seriously about breastfeeding while pregnant. I had this vague sense that even though I heard people saying it wasn’t possible, that nursing while pregnant could certainly be done.

When I was in my early 20s, I remember an older rugby teammate bemoaning her accidental tandem nursing–she hadn’t succeeded in weaning her son by her second trimester, so her doctor had actually advised her to keep nursing just so he wouldn’t associate the new baby’s arrival with the cutoff of his nursing relationship. I hope I didn’t say anything rude to this woman. I remember feeling shocked–could a person really nurse TWO children?

Of course, as I went on to have children, I learned tandem nursing certainly was possible. In fact, lots and lots and lots of women are nursing while pregnant every day. Lots of women tandem nurse! It’s happening all around you, readers.

I did learn that there are some changes to the makeup and taste of breastmilk as the mother’s pregnancy progresses, and nurslings are sure to pick up on these.  We also know that the milk supply tends to dwindle by the late-middle of pregnancy, and some nurslings self-wean in response to this. Some don’t care! They stick it out until the colostrum comes and then turns to fatty newborn milk.

While I attended La Leche League meetings with my first son and saw the tandem nursing mothers feeling overwhelmed, I decided I could never, ever do that. But then I got pregnant while my older son, Miles, was still nursing. You know how these things go! (Anyway, I know it now, even if I didn’t know it pre-kids)

I experienced extremely sensitive nipples while I was pregnant. Nursing Miles became excruciating. He was over two years old and had gotten a lazy, shallow latch by that point. We were down to one nursing session per day (wakeup nursing), and I know he was frustrated that there was less/different milk. One day, I just couldn’t take it anymore and told him my milk was all gone.

He was pretty sad about it, but we set up special cuddle sessions and started drinking chamomile tea together instead of breastmilk. Once Felix was born 6 months later, Miles asked if he could have a turn nursing. I said he could, but he’d forgotten how. I think he mainly wanted to see whether I’d say yes, because he just gave my breast a quick peck and ran away.

I’m actually pretty proud that I stuck with nursing that far into my pregnancy. By that point, I was approaching weaning with a “ok, not today. Maybe tomorrow?” attitude until tomorrow finally arrived. I’m more proud that I said yes to Miles when he asked to try nursing once Felix was born, because tandem nursing a newborn and a toddler ranked high among my great fears.

I was able to experience nursing while pregnant only because I’d learned actual facts that trumped societal fears. I also had a village of other nursing moms who set examples for me, so I knew what was possible. I was able to make the best decisions for my family because I had real options!

Did you breastfeed while you were pregnant? Leave us a comment to share your experiences in tandem nursing.

1 comment to Breastfeeding While Pregnant

  • I breastfed my first daughter into the second trimester of my second pregnancy. I’m now 32 weeks pregnant with my third baby and still breastfeeding #2. At this point, I’m certain I’m going to be tandem nursing a newborn and toddler this fall. My toddler is two years old, and it has been uncomfortable and annoying at times, but she is no where near weaning and I’m not pushing it. I’m trying to spread the word to as many moms as I can because so many women feel like they have to hide extended nursing or any form of tandem nursing!

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